Over 590 LDUs passed out to counter ADF

Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze (black shirt) with UPDF officers and other officials during the pass-out ceremony for 592 local defence unit personnel at Hima Training School in Kasese District on February 9, 2024. PHOTO/JEROME KULE BITSWANDE

What you need to know:

  • ADF rebels are suspected of masterminding recent attacks in Rwenzori Sub-region.

A total of 592 Local Defense Unit (LDU) personnel were passed out last Friday to enhance security and counter the threats posed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in Rwenzori Sub-region.

Over the last six weeks, the recruits underwent basic military training at Hima Military Training School in Kitswamba Sub-County, Kasese District, and are now set to be deployed in Kamwenge and Bunyangabu districts.

During the pass-out ceremony, Maj Gen James Birungi, the commander of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, urged the recruits to strengthen the efforts of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in countering terror attacks and restoring peace and security in the sub-region.

In separate suspected ADF rebel attacks, 64 lives were claimed in Kamwenge and Kasese between June and December 2023

The most recent incidents occurred in Kamwenge on December 19 and 26, resulting in the deaths of 13 individuals.

Maj Gen Birungi highlighted that empowering the LDUs to take charge of the security in their homes and communities is crucial and said this approach enables the UPDF to actively pursue the rebels without being encumbered by concerns about the safety of communities back home.

“You people are coming from districts that experienced firsthand the damage inflicted by these terrorists; from burning our students in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha SS to killing our innocent people in different parts of Kasese and also Kamwenge. However, we have managed to kill many of them although some of them also escaped. Now that we have this new force, I am sure that our work is going to be easy,” Maj Gen Birungi said.

He emphasised the critical role that the new LDUs would play in the intelligence gathering of the security agencies, reiterating that, nowadays, the ADF uses small groups of two or three people to cause mayhem. 

He revealed that the next phase of LDU recruitment will include Kitagwenda District, which neighbours Kamwenge and Kibale National Park, where suspected rebels are hiding.

“We wouldn’t have achieved all the success we have gained in pursuit of the ADF rebels without the support of human intelligence. The civilians have been vital in guiding our operations to rescue abductees and also hunt and kill some of these terrorists... I now dare the ADF to come and see if these young men won’t finish them off,” Maj Gen Birungi added.

The recruitment and graduation of LDU personnel follows President Museveni’s directive last December, saying LDUs should be recruited, trained and deployed to fight against the rebels.

The directive instructed the UPDF to ensure the recruitment of personnel in specific districts, namely Kamwenge, Kitagwenda, Kasese, Bunyangabu, and Kyenjojo, all of which share borders with Kibale National Park.

Lt Col Frank Kaheru, the Commandant at Hima Training School, told the recruits that they are now members of the reserve force and should serve their communities diligently.

“You’re now subjected to military law; be disciplined and use the knowledge you have gained only against the enemy.  Play blind to land conflicts, politics, and witchcraft and only pay attention to the fight against terrorism because that is where the problem is,” Lt Kaheru said.

The minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, who presided over the function, urged civilians to always cooperate with security officers.

Mr Tumwebaze also applauded the leaders from Kasese and Kamwenge for not politicising the recent rebel attacks.

“The incidents that happened were accidental, and our leaders didn’t take advantage of the problem. They instead supported the government, worked with the security, and now have gained some relative peace,” he said last Friday.

ADF attacks
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), historically a Ugandan Muslim majority rebel coalition, established itself in eastern DRC in 1995. 

Uganda and the DRC launched a joint military offensive in 2021 to drive the ADF out of their Congolese strongholds but attacks have continued.

In December 2023, the ADF was accused of two attacks in western Uganda in which 13 villagers were killed.